Altruism, leadership earn Moody youth BGCA’s highest honor

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarrod Grammel
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Stephanie Ramer isn't like most women her age. The 17-year-old high school senior is well-dressed and articulate, and has dedicated the past few years to helping cancer patients, her peers and the local community.

Her list of achievements and contributions include everything from tutoring others in math to starting a program that provides holiday cards to cancer patients. For her hundreds of hours of personal and community improvement, she earned the Congressional Gold Medal, which she expects to receive in June.

In January 2013, she was named the Moody Youth of the Year, part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America program. Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys and Girls Club member can receive, and on March 17, Ramer will go to Atlanta to compete at the state level.

"She's always willing to do whatever needs to be done for the club," said Sandra Sadler, 23d Force Support Squadron youth programmer. "She's a leader, a great spokesperson and gets along well with everybody.

"She has a huge influence over the other teens in our community, and they all really look up to her," she added.

In addition to volunteering for many national and local organizations, and helping the Moody Hospital during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she started her own program called Notes of Hope. She started this program as a high school sophomore in Arizona, and it spread to Virginia, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

"I got the idea while working on my Girl Scouts Silver Award when I was working on head scarves for the local cancer center," said Ramer. "I talked to a patient advocate there, and she said the patients get really lonely around the holidays.

"So I decided to get the local elementary schools, middle schools, church groups and other community organizations to make cards for the Holidays," she added. "Then I expanded it to Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween."

Ramer's goal of helping cancer patients goes beyond volunteering in her free time. After she graduates high school, she plans to go to college and medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

While working on her Congressional Gold Medal, her goal was to help people who are dealing with cancer. But her motivation is simply to help the community she lives in.

"I really just like helping my community," said Ramer. "Now, I know that sounds cliché, but I really do. My favorite part of Notes of Hope is when I go hand the cards out, I'm able to see people's faces. They really like knowing that someone cares about them.

"I love giving them that card or just talking with them to show that someone cares," she added. "...I feel that someone needs to do these things, so I might as well be the one."

Sadler, who works at the Moody Youth Center and meets with Ramer regularly, noted her leadership and desire to help others to get involved.

"She challenges people to try new things and not represent the same causes," said Sadler. "She encourages them to venture out and really understand why they're working for something, and to be passionate about what they're working for."

While continuing her work helping cancer patients and her community, Ramer has also been a varsity athlete on her high school's volleyball and swim teams. She even used her knowledge of swimming to become a lifeguard and swimming instructor for disabled children at a YMCA.

Academics were also a factor when competing for Moody Youth of the Year. Ramer has maintained a GPA of more than 4.0 and has stayed in the top eight percent of every high school she has attended.

But before she graduates, Ramer will go to Atlanta in March to compete for Youth of the Year for the state of Georgia. If Ramer wins at the state level, she will move on to regional, and then the national level.

As Youth of the Year, she serves as a spokesperson for teens and the Boys and Girls Club. Ramer hopes to advance to higher levels, where at the national level she will have the opportunity to meet with the President of the U.S. in the White House.

"I'm kind of nervous, but I'm honored to be representing Moody," she said. "If I were to make it, it would be because I've been able to be involved with everything here. I think it would be a great experience to represent this great organization."

But for now, Ramer stays humble, spending her afternoons at the Moody Youth Center tutoring other children and working on her own schoolwork.

Although she thinks about the possibility of winning higher levels of Youth of the Year, for now she is focused on school and continuing her ultimate goal of helping cancer patients.